The Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon. Martin Mugarra has said that government has started the roll out of the new booking and revenue collection system by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to combat gorilla permits fraud.
Gorilla and chimpanzee permits are issued by UWA to both local and foreign nationals to undertake tracking activities. “The new system will replace the abused gorilla and chimpanzee permit booking system,” Mugarra said.
The Minister made this revelation while presenting a statement on the allegations of fraud at UWA which has seen some staff investigated. This was at a plenary sitting chaired by Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa on Thursday, 05 October 2023.
Rubanda County Member of Parliament, Hon. Moses Kamuntu on Wednesday, 04 October 2023 called for investigations into allegations of fraud in gorilla and chimpanzee permits.
Mugarra said that the ministry is investigating the allegations involving staff from UWA. “The alleged fraud was detected internally by UWA. Consequently, the Executive Director commissioned an internal audit. The internal audit covered the period between June and August 2023,” Mugarra said.
He said that the preliminary findings pointed to possible fraud orchestrated by some staff from the departments of reservations, finance and information technology at the head office and some field staff.
“Following the findings, UWA commissioned a second detailed investigation comprising members of staff from the investigations unit and Uganda Police Force. The investigations are still ongoing and findings will inform the next course of action,” said Mugarra.
He added that, “fourteen suspected staff have been suspended to pave way for investigations”.
He added that some tour companies may have been involved in the reported fraud. “Further investigations are ongoing to identify their role in the suspected fraud. Those implicated staff and tour companies will be prosecuted in courts of law,” said Mugarra.
He said that the Trade Ministry has also requested the Auditor General to undertake a comprehensive forensic audit covering the period between July 2020 and September 2023 to cover gorilla and chimpanzee bookings at Bwindi, Mgahinga and Kibale national parks as well as Kyambura Gorge inQueen Elizabeth national park.
He pledged to present detailed findings of the investigations within a months’ time.
Hon. Mary Begumisa (NRM, Sembabule District) urged the minister to have an engagement with tour operators, to ensure a comprehensive investigative report. “Investigations can be complete when you call in all these investors in the tourism industry,” said Begumisa.
Deputy Speaker, Tayebwa guided the House that debate on the statement be stayed to allow for investigations to continue.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Parliament of the Republic of Uganda.